Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Oh, Wow!

Lost your internet lately?

In case you haven’t, it’s a real WOW! happening.

(As well as a pain in the watoosi.) I hadn’t realized how much of my life is lived online, until I couldn’t get there. I pay bills, do my banking, communicate with friends, check the weather and my calendar, find out what’s going on with people I know and people I don’t.

These days, I rarely write letters (according to #1 son, no one can read them anyway) because it’s easier, faster and a happier experience for everyone involved if I just email.

So yesterday, just as I was ready to email a chapter to my critique friends, I noticed I’d lost my internet. Bummer, but that happens sometimes. Naturally, I blamed the internet company and figured we’d be back online momentarily.

At lunch, my man called to ask if I knew we’d lost our connection. “They’re probably working on it,” I assured him. But when we got home after work, still no go.

A! C! K!

I couldn’t check to see if anyone in my Small Town World said hi. Couldn’t visit my Facebook Friends. Couldn’t send an email to my sibs or kids or anyone.


And for some reason, I couldn’t connect to the internet on my iPhone. What’s up with that? (Hopefully, #1 son can help in case it happens again.)

This morning (after a call to the company and, “uh-oh, I should have sent them a change of address” moment) we have it back.

Know how it feels? Kind of like swimming under water for a long, long way, when you finally getting to take a sweet breath.


And wow, I’m glad I get to be here today to say hi.


Got To Know Joe

I finished Cherokee Strip Fever, by Zola Bellis Sample, a few weeks ago. Great book. One of my favorite parts is when Charity’s husband comes home with his hand messed up.

When she sees it, she panics. “Is that a snake bite?”

I like that, probably because it’s the same way I’d react if I lived in that time and place. Turns out it wasn’t a snake bite, but a fight. He’d happened upon three bullies picking on Mr. Guffey, who was small in stature but large in spirit, and had to take up for him.

Guffey–a name I recognize from my own childhood.

When it’s all over, Mr. Guffey tells Mr. Bellis that he’s the kind of man the Guffeys would love to have for a neighbor, and in the end that’s exactly what happened. The Bellis family bought the place next to the Guffeys.

Now a confession: One of the reasons I bought her book is because my family is mentioned in it. First time I read her book and saw the name Joe Mitchell, I had to ask Dad who he was. 🙂

Zola doesn’t say much about Joe, except that her dad freighted for him.

This is Joe.

Born one hundred years before me, he buried his first wife in Missouri.

This is the first wife’s headstone. She was not quite thirty when she died.

Back in 1991, one of my dad’s cousins sent him these pictures I’m sharing today. Under this picture he’d written,

“Oak Lawn Cemetery. Her daughter and Husband buried beside her. Joe carved this stone at Mtn. Hme Ark. He and some man owned a small quarry. “

Joe carved his wife’s headstone with his own hands. The very last thing he could ever do for her, except care for and raise their three children, one of whom was my gr-grandfather.

Joe married again and moved to Oklahoma, but not necessarily in that order. I’m not sure which came first. 😉

I don’t believe he made the opening of the Cherokee Strip, but he moved to the Basin not too long afterward. He had the store Zola mentions in her book and also the post office, a cotton gin and saw mill. She has a picture of the saw mill in her book, and says G-G Granddad had a partner in the saw mill.

 This isn’t a good picture from Dad’s cousin, but it’s the cotton gin and saw mill. My two granddads are on the lower left side, standing in front of a huge log and beside several bales of cotton.

A portion of that same picture.

Can you see 1 and 2  written on the picture? #1 is above Joe, #2 above my gr-granddad.

When Joe remarried, he and his new wife had several children. In all, I think Joe fathered twelve or thirteen. Several died in childhood or soon after birth.

In one place the papers I found names, “Parley Mitchell” and “Charley Mitchell.” They’re listed on after the other as if they were twins. Charley died at one month, Parley at one year. The notation next to their names says, “Buried beside Mr. and Mrs. McCrackin in Spears cemetery.”

Aren’t the names wonderful? Charley and Parley. One of Granddad Mitchell’s half-brothers was named Okla Homer. No kidding!

The house my parents lived in when I was born stood in the same place where the store/post office/sawmill/cotton gin had been. The family always called it “Aunt Ginny’s House,” which was Joe’s second wife’s name.

Dad told me Joe traded half his land to a man in order to have that house built–two stories with several bedrooms upstairs one down, a good-sized kitchen, big dining room, and large living room.

I remember being there when my mom’s parents lived there when I was little. The staircase was enclosed and dark with a door to close it off so the wood stove kept only the lower floor warm. The stairs curved at the bottom, then shot straight to the upper floor.

The house was moved a long time ago before the lake came in, but it still stands. (Too dangerous to go into these days, but it’s still around.)

I love knowing that even though I never met Joe (he died in 1903, only 52 years old) we lived in the same house, walked the same paths, loved the same people (his son, my great granddad) and quite probably shared the same values.

 And like the letter Dad’s cousin enclosed with the pictures says, I plan to see them all in the Great By-and-By.

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Wedding Warning

Last summer, when #2 son married DIL #2, I think I mentioned Baby Boy would be getting married in March. Well, guess what?

He still is.

Now I need those sound effects I mentioned a few days ago. I’m just not sure which one(s) I would use. A wistful sigh, because it’s all so romantic. A happy sigh, because I absolutely adore DIL2b and her entire family. Or maybe sobs, because this wedding will mark the absolute end of Brad’s childhood, and we had such a good time while the boys were growing up.

My Wedding Warning happened Saturday. The Shower. It was absolutely wonderful.

DIL2b’s good friend and her mother gave the kids a shower.

So! Much! Fun!!!

Before I left the house that morning, I was in a flurry of dressing, making up and trying to get the frizz burned out of my hair when the phone rang.

BB calling. “Where’s your cell phone, Mom?”

Okay, who knew when you got your first cell phone, you were supposed to have your tattooed into your palm? Anyone? I didn’t!

Fast Forward to the intent of the call. “When you get lost on your way to the shower, call Nicole. She’ll get you there.”

He assumed I’d get lost, which makes a lot of sense. The town I was heading for just happens to be the same town where I took Brad to get his driver’s permit when he was fifteen and a half. We got lost. (Happens to me a lot.)

I couldn’t find it.

An entire town, just at the edge of T-Town, and I had no idea where it was. My man gets a little tired of being my human GPS, so I called a friend who gives the world’s best directions (thanks, M!) and she talked me there.

That seems like just last year. 😦

Anyway, it makes sense for my boy to think I’d get lost. But I Googled the exact address and printed out directions. Of course, Google was going to send me all the way to the Australian Outback to get there, but I knew a shortcut. 😉

I followed all the twists, and watched for the turns and made it into a fun neighborhood, to a beautiful home. I wish I’d taken my camera so I could show you everything.

I arrived twenty minutes early. (That was an accident, for sure.) I wasn’t confident enough of my directions to just boogie up to the house, so I waited until I could call Nicole.

She assured me I was in the right place (“Yes, there is a new house going up next door. Yes, it is bright green. . .”) but I still waited.

Finally, people I knew started showing up, so I climbed out of my car. After a flurry of introductions, we headed to the house.

A couple of my sibs came with their daughters and our sweet, sweet baby (gotta claim her). #1 DIL, the other Shay in attendance, kept the Spess congregation entertained during the afternoon with her dry wit.

As I said, the house was a delight. They’d decorated with teapots and teacups for a Tea Shower. Cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries and delicious little sammies were served with three different kinds of tea–in china teacups. (Brave woman!)

And to make the day completely memorable, the hostess gave Nicole her own tea service,

right down to an adorable tea egg.

Now every time she uses the set, she’ll remember the great time we all had at her shower!

The extra special part of the day was getting to spend time with Nicole and her mom, sister and mom’s best friend. They are a real joy to be with! These women know how to put everyone at ease, and made us all feel as if we’d known each other for years.

As I said, this shower was my warning buzzer. The wedding is less than a month away. (Ack!) Time to get ready. Time to shop for my dress, shoes and whatever to go with it. Oh, and time to either lose thirty pounds or find an undergarment with so much control that it will require the Jaws of Life to remove.


Ps: These pictures aren’t from the shower. I borrowed them online.


Do You Lent?

 The Spess crew, at least my section of it, has never been Lent observers. It’s not something that’s talked about in the Christian Church, unless you’re wearing black and have a problem. No, wait. That’s lint. Never mind.

I’ve heard about the Holy Week preparation, but I’ve never known what it was.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known a lot of people who wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, they just didn’t go through the Lent part.

So one year, Sister Debbie decided to give up coffee for Lent.

“Do WHAT?” (I always have such a kind way of responding.)

She gave me her sweet nun’s smile. (I wonder what’s going on in her head when she does that.) “I’m giving up coffee for Lent.”

That stopped me. Totally. Lent? Give up something for it? Was it a sin for a Christian to give up something for Lent? No. Probably not.

I blamed it on her friends. She must have a buddy who’d influenced her, which was a shock in itself. Even as a kid, Deb never was one to follow others. Leave it to her to wait until she was full grown, then choose a holy path to follow someone down. 😉

So after a couple of years of observing her observe Lent, I decided to look it up. (Notice I didn’t say I’m going for it.)

The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This event, along with its pious customs are observed by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, as well as some Baptists and Mennonites. 

Baptists? I didn’t grow up with very many Catholics or Lutherans, but I’ve had lots of Baptist friends, and never head them speak of Lent. What’s up with that?

Next, I looked up Great Lent. It, apparently, is observed by Orthodox Catholics. Now I have to look up what Orthodox means. Just a minute.

The word orthodox, from Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”),[1] is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion.

When I read about Great Lent, something warmed my heart.

Orthodox Christians are expected to pay closer attention to and increase their private prayer. According to Orthodox theology, when asceticism (fasting, etc) is increased, prayer must be increased also.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re going through the pain of fasting (as Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness just before He started His ministry) the only reason to do it is to enhance your prayer life.

We had a professor at Bible College who’d prayed and fasted for forty days. I never heard him speak of it, but others did and they shared what he’d done.

I always imagined he took the forty days during the summer, when he wasn’t teaching, to go someplace by himself so, like Jesus, he could fast and pray and be alone with the Lord.

And yes, I could see it in his life. Even though he was never my professor, I enteracted with him on campus and heard him speak in chapel. There really was something different about him.

If I’m reading this right, Lent is the preparation for Holy Week. Not just giving something up, but a time to get closer to the Lord and get ready for Resurrection Sunday.

Anybody? Am I right?

How about you? Do you observe Lent? Do you give something up or fast during that time? I think I’d like to learn more.



Know what today is?


Okay, I have to admit, it’s doesn’t rank up there with Valentine’s Day, but hey, it’s CHILI! And at least one of my sons makes award-winning chili. If a man does the cooking and I don’t have to, that makes me celebrate!

It’s also National Chocolate Covered Nut Day. And National Pistol Patent Day. I really think we should party.

Of course, this month we’ve already missed National Serpent Day

and National Weatherman’s Day. 😦

But not to worry. In just a few days we can celebrate Leap Day.

You know about Leap Day, right? It’s the day St. Bridget talked St. Patrick into letting allowing women to propose to men instead of just the other way around. (1 day every four years. That’s fair.) It’s also known as Bachelors Day. A man who was proposed to and turned the woman down had to pay a penalty of a gown or money to the woman he wouldn’t marry.

Babies born on Leap Day are called Leaplings or Leapers.

Leap Day is also St. Oswald’s Day. (If you have information about St. Ossie, let  me know.)

Did you know:

  • Superman was a Leap Day baby? In 1988, Superman celebrated his 50th birthday!  
  • Leap Day isn’t the same as Sadie Hawkins Day.
  • The Leap Day symbol is a frog or toad?
  • The official Leap Day game is Leap Frog?

But that’s in a few days. Today’s National Chili Day. Make a batch and share.

Tomorrow celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

Monday we can all dance! It’s No Brainer Day.

Live happy. Find reason each day and CELEBRATE!!!